LPGA teen rookie has rare chance in Portland—to win as a Monday qualifier

Once again, a Monday qualifier has an opportunity to win the LPGA Tour’s Cambia Portland Classic. Chanette Wannasaen, 19, played her way into this week’s tournament field and now sits at 17 under par after a third-round seven-under 65, a stroke behind Megan Khang’s lead.

The Thai native holds a chance to join multiple major winner Brooke Henderson as Monday qualifiers to win at Columbia Edgewater Country Club.

“The Monday qualify is really meaningful to me because I got more confident before I play in tournament,” Wannasaen said.

Wannasaen’s 68-66-65 week is an out-of-nowhere performance, as the rookie had only made one cut in 11 starts this season heading into Portland. Her best finish is a T-51 at the limited-field Honda LPGA Thailand, and Wannasaen has not played on the weekend since her first stateside start in late March at the LPGA Drive On Championship.

Wannasaen had strong playing-opportunity status with a T-6 finish at Q-Series, but the poor season sent her down the LPGA’s priority list during the reshuffle, which dictates the order in which players can sign up for events. That forced her to Monday qualify for this week’s tournament after she previously attempted to Monday qualify for the Mizuho America’s Open and did not get in.

Wannasaen delivered on her opportunity with back-to-back season-best rounds, besting her Friday 66 with a 65 on Saturday. The 17-under performance is partly due to Wannasean’s accurate putting, averaging 26 putts per round this week, four less than her season average.

Wannasaen has eight professional victories, the most notable coming on the Ladies European Tour’s developmental Access Series, and the Thai LPGA.

There have only been two previous Monday qualifiers to win on the LPGA, with Laurel Kean capturing the 2000 State Farm LPGA Classic and Henderson winning in 2015 at Portland. Yealimi Noh nearly became the third-ever Monday qualifier to win at the 2019 Portland Classic, as the then-18-year-old held a three-stroke 54-hole lead before Hannah Green overcame her by a shot.

Heading into Sunday, Megan Khang sits atop the leaderboard with a consistent performance of three straight 66s to hold a one-stroke lead at 18 under. The American broke through for her first career victory in eight years on tour only six days ago at the CPKC Women’s Open and feels confident after proving to herself she can win on tour.

“Just going to try it take what I learned last week into this week going with I think a one-shot lead,” Khang said. “So it’s definitely a lot closer and there is a ton of people I know for a fact who can shoot low, and so it’s going to be anyone’s game out there I feel like.”

Wannasaen is tied for second with fellow rookie Hyo Joon Hang, who carded a 10-under 62 to vault into contention. Carlotta Ciganda is alone in fourth at 15 under.

Henderson, a 13-time LPGA winner, explained best when she won in Portland in 2019 what’s on the line for those who can win after Monday qualifying into a tournament.

“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” Henderson said, “and you can make it easier on yourself if you can go out and play one round well, as opposed to going to Q School play a lot of rounds play. If you can capitalize, it changes your whole life.”

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